Lessons from the DBQ

Source: http://aso.gov.au/titles/historical/landing-of-australian-troops/extras/

Thus far, the DBQ has been a very challenging, but educational, experience. I initially began this journey thinking that I would do my DBQ on Operation PB Success. However, I found that would not be feasible so I changed my topic to the Anzacs in Egypt during World War I and perceptions of the ‘other.’ Through this, I have learned how to conduct a successful history lesson without a lengthy lecture. The setup of my DBQ allows students to interact successfully with the material and make an argument without needing in-depth background on the topic beforehand. Students, therefore, practice thinking like historians and the classroom becomes more student-centered.

Another lesson I have learned from the DBQ is how to find primary sources. Finding primary sources is, clearly, very important to the DBQ process. The internet makes it possible to track down hundreds of primary sources from a range of websites whether they be from an academic institutions or a small blog. In order to ensure that my sources are reliable, I have found that government websites are really helpful in locating legitimate primary sources. While it is certainly tempting to just steal primary sources without worrying about their origin, I believe it is important to ensure that I am giving my students something that is quality and genuine.

I would really enjoy using this DBQ in a class that was exploring World War I. Race hate is a reoccurring theme in wars and this DBQ gives students another avenue in which to explore it. When we think of race hate we often think of groups such as the Nazis, but it is important to show students that there are many dimensions to history and while it is easy to villains only one group, it is not necessarily accurate. Racial prejudices come in many shapes and sizes and can be found in all eras. The Anzacs provide another perspective to historians. It is not my intent to belittle the bravery of the Anzacs in World War I. Rather, I want students to remember that history is not black and white. It is not simple and it is not static. It is fluid and gray. It is their job to sift through it and make a claim and support it with evidence as historians in training.

Nothing More or Less Than A Big Brothel


Originally, I designed by DBQ around Operation PBSuccess when the American CIA helped stage a coup in Guatemala in 1954. However, it became clear after speaking with the professor that this topic would not be feasible due to the sources available and the background knowledge required to answer the generative questions.

I thought instead about what primary sources I had easily available that did not require extensive prior knowledge to understand. Fortunately, as part of the Senior Thesis in history, I have accumulated a wealth of letters written by Anzacs in World War I from Egypt that provides accounts of racial tensions.

As a dominion of Great Britain, Australia was called to serve the metropole– a call 320,000 answered most proudly. The Anzacs are most famous for participating in the Campaign of Gallipoli when the Entente Powers attempted to open up the Dardanelles in order to send supplies to Russia via ships. In the end, they were defeated and thousands of Australian soldiers lost their lives. However, this event is regarded as the birth of Australian nationhood. Rather than focus on this particular event which has already been studied extensively, I want to direct my students to Egypt where the Australians trained for Gallipoli.

In Egypt, many Australians were quick to raise sales in alcohol, narcotics, and brothels. However, their opinion of the local people who provided these goods and services was very low to the point they nearly burned down the red light district of Cairo. Anzac letters provide extensive details on the locals that are less than flattering. Generally, these letters see whites as superior based on hygiene, intelligence, and morality.

For my DBQ, I hope to have students examine these letters in order to figure out the what and why.

Example of Source


  • What did the Anzac soldiers think of the Egyptian “natives?”
  • What were their opinions informed by?
  • Are these letters reliable sources?
  • Do the Anzac letters corroborate each other?

Looking Ahead

In order to further my DBQ, one goal is to narrow down my sources. There are dozens of letters available, but I want to select the most powerful and descriptive letters.

Secondly, I would like to see if there are any letters that speak to the contrary and describe the Egyptians in a much more positive light in order to provide contrast. I do not want to encourage students to generalize Australian soldiers in World War I and I think finding other points of view will prevent that from happening.

Overall, I feel that this topic is much more appropriate for the task at hand than my previous one and I look forward to continuing to modify and improve my DBQ.